We connect adult volunteers in a positive way with young people who are at risk of or have involvement with the criminal justice system. Our approach is always strength focused, seeing beyond what’s wrong to nurture what’s strong.

Our impact is young people who feel valued and supported to be a part of our community in a meaningful way.

Our programs reflect a paradigm shift in thinking about interventions with youth who are vulnerable for engaging in high-risk behaviours.

Instead of the traditional model of negative labeling and attempting to control at-risk behaviours and attitudes, we begin with the assumption that all youth have the potential to be resilient if engaged in ways that affirm their value and worth as the starting point for positive change. We want to see young people contribute to, and flourish in, safe, caring communities.

Programs

By connecting with members of a Youth Justice Committee, a young person begins to see him or herself in a different light and is introduced to positive role models. Youth often say they now realize their own power and the opportunity to make a positive choice, or they have a new idea of their role and responsibilities in a community, or they feel better about themselves as a result of the sanctions they were given.

Youth Justice Committee members choose consequences (sanctions) that fit the strengths, future plans, career aspirations and current challenges of the young person before them. When assigned community service work, young people get job experience, e.g. volunteering at the library, and increased feelings of self-worth, satisfaction and sense of belonging to community.

Ngage is for young people in conflict with the law who are having trouble starting or completing their mandated community service hours. It provides wrap around support to youth who have significant barriers which would prevent them from achieving success in a typical volunteer placement.

Traditionally community service hours have been used in a more ‘punitive’ fashion. However, we have found that when a young person is engaged with giving back to the community by tapping into their “spark“, they feel a greater sense of connection to the community and will often continue to volunteer beyond their sanctioned hours, sometimes even bringing friends and family to volunteer as well.

Partnerships are created specifically for each youth with non-profit organizations and local community groups who are educated on strength-based approach mentoring to ensure youth successfully complete community service hours.

Not all young people with strong leadership abilities are easy to spot. Many young people, facing challenges and obstacles growing up, develop characteristics that can be the foundation of great leadership. The In the Lead program is for these youth whose leadership qualities may be overlooked in favour of peers who are displaying their potential in more conventional and obvious ways.

Over 16 weeks, Young Leaders recognize, nurture and practice individual strengths and character competencies that are known to build resilience. Cenovus Energy engages their employees as Volunteer Coaches to connect one on one with the young leaders, providing valuable encouragement and support.

Together, the Young Leader and Coach lay the foundation for realizing the young person’s potential, and reducing the likelihood of risk-taking behaviour that could lead to criminal activity or leaving school.